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Stanley Baldwin

The Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin
Periods in Office: May, 1923 - January, 1924
November, 1924 - June, 1929
May, 1935 - May, 1937
PM Predecessors: Andrew Bonar Law
Ramsay MacDonald (twice)
PM Successors: Ramsay MacDonald (twice)
Neville Chamberlain
Date of Birth: 3 August 1867
Place of Birth: Bewdley, Worcestershire
Political Party: Conservative
Retirement honour: Earldom of Baldwin of Bewdley

Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley (August 3, 1867 - December 14, 1947) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on three separate occasions.


Early Life

Born at Bewdley in Worcestershire he was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, and went into the family business. In 1908 he succeeded his deceased father as Conservative MP for Bewdley. In 1917 he was appointed to the junior ministerial post of Financial Secretary to the Treasury where he sought to encourage voluntary donations by the rich in order the repay the United Kingdom's war debt, notably writing to The Times under the peusdonym 'FST'. In 1921 he was promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade in 1921.

In late 1922 dissatisfaction grew within the Conservative Party about the coalition it was in with David Lloyd George. At a meeting of Conservative MPs at the Carlton Club in October Baldwin announced that he would no longer support the coalition and famously condemned Lloyd George for being a "dynamic force" that was bringing destruction across politics. The meeting chose to leave the coalition despite the views of most of the party leadership. As a result the Conservatives' new leader, Andrew Bonar Law was forced to find new ministers for his Cabinet and so he promoted Baldwin to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. In November a general election was held and the Conservatives were returned with a majoirty.

First appointment as Prime Minister

In May 1923 it was discovered that Bonar Law was dying of cancer and he retired immediately. Due to many of the party's leading figures standing aloof from the government there were only two candidates to succeed him - Lord Curzon the Foreign Secretary and Baldwin. The choice formally fell to King George V acting on the advice of senior ministers and officials. It is not entirely clear what factors were the most crucial, but many felt that Curzon was unsuitable to be Prime Minister, due to his being a member of the House of Lords (though this did nor stop other Lords being seriously considered for the premeirship on subsequent occasions), his lack of experience of domestic affairs, his personal character which many found objectional and his coming from a rich background at a time when the Conservative Party was seeking to appeal to a more meritocratic support base. As a result Baldwin was appointed Prime Minister. Initially he also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer whilst he sought to recruit the former Liberal Chancellor Reginald McKenna to join the government but when this failed he instead appointed Neville Chamberlain.

The Conservatives had a clear majority in the House of Commons and could govern for another four years before the need for a new general election, but Baldwin felt bound by a pledge given by Bonar Law at the previous election that there would be no introduction of tariffs without a further election. With the country facing growing unemployment due to cheap imports he decided to call an early general election in December 1923 to seek a mandate to introduce Protection. Although this succeeded in reuniting his divided party, the election produced an inconclusive outcome. The Conservatives won 258 MPs, the Labour Party 191 and the Liberals 159. Whilst the Conservatives were the largest party they had been clearly defeated on the central issue of the election. Baldwin remained Prime Minister until the opening session of the new Parliament in January 1924 when the government was defeated on a confidence vote and he resigned immediately.

Return to office

For the next ten months a minority Labour government was in office but it too fell and a further general election was held in October 1924. This election resulted in a landslide majority of 223 for the Conservatives, primarily at the expense of the Liberals who lost ground due to a depleted organisation and limited funds. Baldwin became Prime Minister again and remained in office until 1929. This period included the General Strike of 1926, a crisis which the government managed to weather, despite the havoc it caused nationally. In 1931 he and the Conservatives entered into a coalition with Labour Party Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. This decision led to MacDonald's expulsion from his own party, and Baldwin, as Lord President of the Council became de facto Prime Minister for the increasingly senile MacDonald over the next four years, when he, once again, became Prime Minister. During his third term of office, from 1935 to 1937, his foreign policy was much criticised, and he also faced the problem of the abdication of King Edward VIII. With this successfully achieved he retired after the coronation of the new King George VI and was created Earl Baldwin of Bewdley.

Historical perceptions

Baldwin is known to history chiefly through the eyes of his chief rival and antagonist, Winston Churchill, who desired the premiership, but spent much of the 1930's as a backbencher in the Conservative Party, despite having held portfolios in both war and peace. Churchill's memoir of the period depicts Baldwin as a headstrong political operator without real grasp of larger issues or of greater political forces. Though there are later conciliatory notes for Baldwin's skills, the portrait of the man who dithered while Europe burned remains the common image to history. This has generally obscured his judgement in domestic crisis, both the National Strike and abdication proved that he had the ability to hold the English people together during moments when political forces were tearing at the fabric of economic and political loyalty. He was also far from being either heartless or bloodless, but was, instead, faced with economic pressures which forced him to make choices between arming the nation or supporting living standards of the public through works programs and social programs. While history's verdict on his choice has been sharp and definitive, it is, to some extent exagerated by the very high quality of the prose that Churchill writes in, and the exposure of the foibles of Baldwin's administration, which allowed details and facts that were inconvenient to escape his notice. For example, he is criticized less now for his role in the fiasco of attempting to reassert the gold standard after the First World War, perhaps, because his arch-rival Churchill was even closer to the center of it, and was, therefore, less in a mood to skewer him on it.

Ironically, Baldwin was responsible, more than any other person for creating a sharp divide in British politics between Conservatives and Labour, since he saw the rise of Labour as a useful tool to divide the Liberal Party, which has not held government since his first victory as Prime Minister. He was also the architect of social legislation and welfare policies in England, deciding to do what was going to happen anyway in his own fashion.

Within the Conservative Party, Baldwin steered a course of moderate pragmatism combined with key social reforms, resulting in repeated electoral success for his party. This has led some to see him as the Disraeli of the inter-war years. His mastery of then-modern forms of media such as radio and talking films resulted in him being the first politician to truely address the masses. Some later Conservative leaders such as Harold Macmillan and John Major are regarded as being very similar to Baldwin in their way.


Baldwin was a cousin of the author and journalist Rudyard Kipling.

Stanley Baldwin's First Government, May 1923 - January 1924


  • 1923 - Neville Chamberlain took over from Baldwin as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir William Joynson Hicks succeeded Chamberlain as Minister of Health. Joynson-Hicks' successor as Financial Secretary to the Treasury was not in the Cabinet.

Stanley Baldwin's Second Cabinet, November 1924 - June 1929


  • 1925 On Lord Curzon of Kedleston's death, Lord Balfour succeeded him as Lord President. W. Guinness succeeded E.F.L. Wood as Minister of Agriculture. The post of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is created and held by Leo Amery in tandem with Secretary of State for the Colonies.
  • 1926 - The post of Secretary of Scotland is upgraded to Secretary of State for Scotland.
  • 1927 - Lord Cushendun succeeded Lord Cecil of Chelwood as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • 1928 - Lord Hailsham (former Sir D. Hogg) succeeded Lord Cave as Lord Chancellor. Lord Hailsham's successor as Attorney-General was not in the Cabinet. Lord Peel succeeded Lord Birkenhead as Secretary of State for India. Lord Londonderry succeeded Lord Peel as First Commissioner of Public Works

Stanley Baldwin's Third Cabinet, May 1935 - May 1937


  • November 1935 - Malcolm MacDonald succeeds J.H. Thomas as Dominions Secretary. Thomas succeeds MacDonald as Colonial Secretary. Lord Halifax succeeds Lord Londonderry as Lord Privy Seal. Duff Cooper succeeds Lord Halifax as Secretary for War. Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister becomes Viscount Swinton and Bolton Eyres-Monsell becomes Viscount Monsell , both remaining in the Cabinet.
  • December 1935 Anthony Eden succeeds Sir Samuel Hoare as Foreign Secretary and is not replaced as Minister without Portfolio.
  • 1936 - Sir Thomas Inskip enters the cabinet as Minister for the Coordination of Defense. Lord Eustace Percy leaves the cabinet. William Ormsby-Gore succeeds J.H. Thomas as Colonial Secretary. Lord Stanhope succeeds Ormsby-Gore as First Commissioner of Works. Elliott succeeds Collins as Secretary for Scotland. William Shepherd Morrison succeeds Elliott as Minister of Agriculture. Samuel Hoare succeeds Lord Monsell as First Lord of the Admiralty. Leslie Hore-Belisha enters the Cabinet as Minister of Transport.

|- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
Sir Robert Horne |width="40%" align="center"|President of the Board of Trade
1921–1922 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame |- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
Sir Robert Horne |width="40%" align="center"|Chancellor of the Exchequer
1922–1923 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Neville Chamberlain |- |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="3"|Preceded by:
Andrew Bonar Law |width="40%" align="center"|Leader of the British Conservative Party
1923–1937 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Neville Chamberlain |- |width="40%" align="center"|Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1923–1924 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Ramsay MacDonald |- |width="40%" align="center"|Leader of the House of Commons
1923–1924 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Ramsay MacDonald |- |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Preceded by:
Ramsay MacDonald |width="40%" align="center"|Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1924–1929 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Succeeded by:
Ramsay MacDonald |- |width="40%" align="center"|Leader of the House of Commons
1924–1929 |- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
The Lord Parmoor |width="40%" align="center"|Lord President of the Council
1931–1935 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Ramsay MacDonald |- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
The Viscount Snowden |width="40%" align="center"|Lord Privy Seal
1932–1934 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Anthony Eden |- |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Preceded by:
Ramsay MacDonald |width="40%" align="center"|Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1935–1937 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Succeeded by:
Neville Chamberlain |- |width="40%" align="center"|Leader of the House of Commons
1935–1937 |}

|- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
New Creation |width="40%" align="center"|Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
|width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Oliver Baldwin |}

Last updated: 02-07-2005 17:41:59
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01